Use Good Sun Sense!

Pets can sunburn and dehydrate just like people.

We are all used to seeing the many advertisements on our televisions about protecting ourselves and our children from the summer sun, but do we ever think about protecting our pets? Probably not. However, cats and dogs can get sun burnt too and with the same terrible consequences, including the possibility of skin cancer.

Cats who are outside a lot during the summer, especially those with light colored fur are particularly at risk from the effects of the sun and the heat. So before we let our pets outside on a summer’s day we must make sure we provide adequate care for them, just as we would for our children and ourselves. Areas particularly at risk on your pets are their ears. They often have a much lighter covering of fur and this makes them much more likely to burn in the sun. Add this to the fact that cats will often spend hours laying in the sun and the risks of skin cancer rise dramatically.

There are simple things that you can do to protect your pets from the burning rays of the sun and its dangerously warm and humid temperatures. Some are obvious and require nothing more than good common sense, like providing plenty of fresh water for your pet in a cool, shady spot. We don't like to drink hot water and neither do animals. Hot water certainly doesn't cool or refresh, so remember not to leave pet water bowls in direct sunlight where they can become overheated and evaporate quicker. Also remember to use a non-metal dishes to help keep the water cool, and to prevent burns to your pet. Pets and dogs need fresh drinking water at least three times a day, more if the weather is extremely hot. If you are away from home with your dog, it's a good idea to bring along a sports bottle of clean, fresh, cool water, which you can squirt water right into the dog's mouth. Don't be afraid to force your dog to drink the water, dehydration is dangerous.

Another simple protection is to remember when you let your pet out on a hot summer day, to make sure you rub a high factor sun cream onto the ears and areas which are not as covered with a thick layer of fur, if they are going to be outside for any length of time; however, don’t let your dog out in the sun, especially on a beach, for long periods of time on very hot days. Remember your dog will want to lick any suntan lotion off so you must be sure it is non-toxic to him. It's best to use stick sunscreen as it’s harder for a dog to lick off, and always use a safe-for-dogs sun block on him. If you do use a sun block for babies, make sure it doesn't contain any lanolin or baby oil. Some breeds can get sunburned, especially those with light colored noses or muzzles. Eyelids can sunburn, and dogs can suffer eye damage from too much sun exposure. Some breeds have a very thin covering of fur all over, and it might be safer to just keep these breeds inside on very hot sunny days. There are several companies on the internet which sell pet-specific sun products if you cannot find them locally.

Just as you did with your pet's water bowl to keep it cool, you should make sure there are plenty of shady places for your pet to retreat from the direct sunlight. The affects of heat stroke can come on very fast and if not treated promptly can be fatal. If you suspect that your pet is suffering from heat stroke (i.e. panting very heavily, wobbly on their legs and disorientation), cool them down immediately in a bath of cool water and then take them immediately to a vet.

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Dogs absorb heat through the pads on their feet so be sure to protect them. Dogs and cats do not sweat, and panting is the primary means to rid excess heat for dogs. Excessive panting, drooling, and abnormally rapid pulse are danger signals that your pet may be suffering from heat stroke. You could save your pet's life by immediately immersing it in water, allowing it to cool down.

Just to recap:

  1. Prevent sunburn - use a pet sun block on exposed ears and nose and areas where fur is extremely short or thin.
  2. Prevent heat stroke and dehydration - provide ample shade and plenty of clean, cool water throughout the day.
  3. Protect your pet's paws - avoid hot pavement and apply paw protectors if possible or paw wax.
  4. Beware your own backyard - garden hoses harbor HOT water, so don't let your dog get burned drinking from it. Garden hoses also contain chemicals to keep them flexible, making the water hazardous to humans and pets. Keep them away from pets.
  5. Never use insect spray on pets, because they will lick it off and ingest it.

All of the above are quite simple and affective steps, which will protect your pet during the summer months. A little time and thought could save both you and your pet any suffering and will ensure that summertime is enjoyed by every member of your family including your furry friends. Most of all, enjoy the summer sun and vacation time with your pets by making sure it’s a safe summer for both of you.

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